Saturday, September 5, 2009

Day 1: Tea House

In our two-hour conversation on Friday, the understanding of what would constitute the "Wabi Sabi Tea House" became influenced by our own experiences of tea within Southern culture - in the South, (sweet) tea is perhaps as important a ritual as it is in Japanese culture. A generous proposition as most of us revealed we don't like it.

The discussion cycled toward the space of the Southern front porch, which we identified as being perhaps the answer to the Japanese Tea House. For argument's sake, let's examine the elements of the Japanese Tea House vs. the elements of the Southern Front Porch in a search for alignment and sense:

In "The Book of Tea," Okakura Kakuzo writes "[t]he early tea-room consisted merely of a portion of the ordinary drawing-room partitioned off by screens for the purpose of the tea-gathering. The portion partitioned off was called the Kakoi (enclosure), a name still applied to those tea-rooms which are built into a house and are not independent constructions. the Sukiya consists of the tea-room proper, designed to accommodate not more than fiver persons, a number suggestive of the saying 'more than the Graces and less than the Muses,' an anteroom (midsuya) where the tea utensils are washed and arranged before being brought in, a portico (machiai) in which the guests wait until they receive the summons to enter the tea-room and a garden path (the roji) which connects the machiai with the tea room. It is smaller than the smallest of Japanese houses, while the materials used in its construction are intended to give the suggestion of refined poverty. Yet we must remember that all of this is the result of profound artistic forethought..."

The Southern Front Porch (site of tea rituals enacted in the lower half of the United States) is an interstitial space of private publicity - a space that visitors must be invited to inhabit, but that is highly public. These are spaces that negotiate between architecture and nature, interior and exterior, public and private.

For class this Friday (September 11th), reflect on how a traditional Japanese tea house might be translated into a Southern front porch experience - the necessary space that will be sponsored from this strange union - and importantly, how Japanese Wabi-Sabi aesthetics will inform the design.

The readings that will assist our upcoming conversation are on the server - they differ from the syllabus, based on our conversation. They are:

Okakura Kakuzo, The Book of Tea. (Tokyo: Charles E Tuttle Co, Inc., 1956).
“The Tea-room,” p 53 – 73
“The Material Qualities of Wabi-Sabi,” p 62-72

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